Ever wonder why when we are severely dehydrated as diabetics or when we are dealing with an extreme high blood sugar our medical team tells us to make sure we replenish our electrolytes? I mean, what is an electrolyte anyway, what are the symptoms of low electrolytes and how can they help us as diabetics or if your just out mowing the lawn? Diabetic or not, they are extremely important when it comes to our overall health so lets take a closer look!
When dissolved in fluid, salts tend to break apart into their component ions, creating an electrically-conductive solution. For example, table salt (NaCl) dissolved in water dissociates into its component positive ion of sodium (Na+) and negative ion of chloride (Cl-). Any fluid that conducts electricity, such as this new saltwater solution, is known as an electrolyte solution: the salt ions of which it’s composed are then commonly referred to as electrolytes. So that leads us to the next question…
What Are Electrolytes?
There are several common electrolytes found in the body, each serving a specific and important role, but most are in some part responsible for maintaining the balance of fluids between the intracellular (inside the cell) and extracellular (outside the cell) environments. This balance is critically important for things like hydration, nerve impulses, muscle function, and pH levels.
With the correct body water balance, the electrolytes separate into positive and negative ions. When the body loses water or becomes dehydrated an electrolyte imbalance starts to occur. During heavy exercise, sodium and potassium electrolytes in particular are lost through sweating. To ensure constant electrolyte concentrations in the body, fluids must be regularly consumed.
To avoid an electrolyte imbalance which can cause lethargy and muscle twitching, athletes consume electrolyte solution drinks to make sure the electrolyte balance is maintained during and after exercise – this contributes to achieving optimum performance
You should drink frequently during strenuous physical activity. Thirst usually does not kick in until well after you have reached a state of dehydration, so consume plenty of fluid whether you feel like it or not. About 6 to 8 ounces every 15 minutes is sufficient. Help replace electrolytes by consuming a beverage that contains 0.7 milligrams of salt per quart of fluid. Consuming fruit slices, such as bananas, strawberries and oranges can help restore lost potassium, but obviously we still need to be careful here and a small bolus may be needed.
7 Major Electrolytes & Their Function:
Let’s take a look:
- Sodium (Na+)
- Chloride (Cl-)
- Potassium (K+)
- Magnesium (Mg++)
- Calcium (Ca++)
- Phosphate (HPO4–)
- Bicarbonate (HCO3-)
So what do each of these to?
Sodium (NA+) is the major positive ion in fluid outside of cells (extracellular) and when combined with chloride the resulting substance is table salt. Some functions of sodium include the regulation of the total amount of water in the body and the transmission of sodium into and out of individual’s cells, which plays a role in critical body functions. Many processes in the body, especially in the brain, nervous system, and muscles require electrical signals for communication. The movement of sodium is critical in generation of these electrical signals. Too much or too little sodium can cause cells to malfunction and extremes in the blood sodium levels.
Potassium (K+) is the major positive ion found inside of cells. Some of the functions of K+ are the regulation of heartbeat and muscle function. The proper level of potassium is essential for normal cell function. Any seriously abnormal increase or decrease in K+ can profoundly affect the nervous system and increase change of irregular heartbeats.
Calcium (Ca++) is needed to build and maintain bones. It also plays a role in nerve impulse transmission and muscle contraction.
Magnesium (Mg++) is an essential mineral that is involved in more than 300 enzyme reactions in the body. Mg supports heart and nerve function. Mg is essential in the formation of bones and teeth and in converting blood sugar into energy.
Chloride (Cl-) is the major anion (negatively charged ion). CI- is found in the fluid outside of the cells and in the blood. The balance of chloride ion (CI-) is closely regulated by the body. Seawater has almost the same concentration of chloride ion as human body fluids. CI- plays a role in helping the body maintain a normal balance of fluids.
Most of you already know that I love to exercise. My day starts out at 4am, early yes, but its the only time that I get to myself during the day. As a stay at home dad of 4, I consider this a small sacrifice for my sanity as well as to benefit my bottom line as a type 1 diabetic, my health!
What makes exercise so important? Well I think we all know the answer to that question as there are so many benefits including better control of our overall blood sugars. There is a list of exercises you can do, but lets take a closer look at how you can exercise safely for better control!
Diabetes And Exercise:
Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, diabetes and exercise should go hand in hand, at least when it comes to the management aspect of the disease. Not only can exercise can help you improve your blood sugar control, boost your overall fitness, it can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, provide more stable blood sugar readings, and help lower blood pressure ~ all risk factors that we face.
While exercise is great for us and the benefits are well documented, as diabetics it also poses some unique challenges. To exercise safely, it’s crucial to track your blood sugar before, during and after physical activity. You’ll learn how your body responds to exercise, which can help you prevent potentially dangerous blood sugar fluctuations.
Exercise And High Blood Sugars?
This was one of the biggest hurdles for me when I was first diagnosed. My numbers would skyrocket after a workout or even during a gym session. The issue is that exercise triggers the body to release stress hormones, like adrenaline. Adrenaline tells the liver to release glucose, or cortisol which makes you more resistant to insulin, and since strenuous activity triggers an increase in these stress hormones, chances are (even temporarily) your blood sugars are often increased.
That being said different exercises affect us differently and we also know that we’re all very unique, and lets face it, type 1 diabetes effects everyone differently and no situations are ever the same. Our blood sugar response to exercise will also depend on our level of physical fitness and personal exertion. Generally speaking, 30-40 minutes of high intensity interval training will bring different results than an hour of running, doing the stair climber or even walking the dog so it will be important to closely monitor your blood sugars during exercise and see how these activity levels effect you.
When it comes to diabetes management, blood sugar control is often the central theme. After all, keeping your blood sugar level within your target range can help you live a long and healthy life. Speaking of a long and healthy life, do you know what makes your blood sugar level rise and fall, especially when it comes to supporting a loved one? Below, I’ve listed a couple of examples that have always helped me during my 10 year journey with type 1. Hopefully you can use some to help you support your loved one.
Diabetes Diet & Eating:
Healthy eating is a cornerstone of any diabetes management plan. But it’s not just what you eat that affects your blood sugar level. How much you eat and when you eat matters, too.
What to do:
- Keep to a schedule. As most people with diabetes know, your blood sugar level is highest an hour or two after you eat, and then begins to fall. This predictable pattern can work to your advantage. You can help lessen the amount of change in your blood sugar levels if you eat at the same time every day, eat several small meals a day or eat healthy snacks at regular times between meals.
- Make every meal well-balanced. As much as possible, plan for every meal to have the right mix of healthy starches, fruits and vegetables, proteins, and fats. It’s especially important to eat about the same amount of carbohydrates at each meal and snack because they have a big effect on blood sugar levels. Talk to your doctor, nurse or dietitian about the best food choices and appropriate balance.
- Eat the right amount of foods. Learn what portion size is appropriate for each type of food. Simplify your meal planning by writing down portions for the foods you eat often. Use measuring cups or a scale to ensure proper portion size.
- Coordinate your meals and medication. Too little food in comparison to your diabetes medications — especially insulin — may result in dangerously low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Too much food may cause your blood sugar level to climb too high (hyperglycemia). Talk to your diabetes health care team about how to best coordinate meal and medication schedules. Typically I take my insulin about 15 minutes before sitting down to eat.
I fielded a question the other day on my Facebook page regarding the effects gestational diabetes has on the body. Well, I’ll be honest with you. Even as a type 1 diabetic, dealing with the daily highs and lows, I wasn’t 100% sure, so lets take a closer look!
Gestational diabetes is a kind of diabetes that comes on during pregnancy. It affects about 4% of all pregnant women, according to the American Diabetes Association. Gestational diabetes is often diagnosed on screening tests done between weeks 24 and 28 of pregnancy.
While doctors aren’t sure what causes gestational diabetes, it is believed that hormones from the placenta may block the action of insulin in the mother. This means that the mother needs more insulin and sometimes her pancreas cannot make enough to transport the sugar in the blood into the cells for energy. The mother’s blood has high levels of glucose, which can cross the placenta, giving the growing baby a high blood sugar level.
Gestational Diabetes & Pregnancy:
Gestational diabetes is caused by a change in the way a woman’s body responds to insulin during pregnancy. Insulin is a hormone. It moves glucose out of the blood and into the body’s cells where it can be turned into energy. During pregnancy, a woman’s cells naturally become slightly more resistant to insulin’s effects. This change is designed to increase the mother’s blood glucose level to make more nutrients available to the baby. The mother’s body makes more insulin to keep the blood glucose level normal. In a small number of women, even this increase is not enough to keep their blood glucose levels in the normal range. As a result, they develop gestational diabetes.
Signs & Symptoms:
The symptoms of gestational diabetes are not very prominent and are similar to that of pregnancy. Hence, they are not easily distinguished. Listed below are few of the symptoms you can experience during pregnancy.
- Feeling thirsty often
- Frequent urination
- Bladder infection
- Vaginal infection
- Blurred vision
- Visible loss of weight
I fielded a question on my Facebook page the other day in regards to pregnancy and type 1 diabetes. First off, If you are reading this article, I want to personally congratulate you as well as your significant other! As a stay at home dad of 4, being a parent is an amazing experience, something I wouldn’t trade for the world! Its a exceptional time, even if you are up several times a night, listening to priceless cries, changing a dirty diaper or just watching your little one sleep peacefully out of pure enjoyment.
With all the medical advancements today, being a parent should be something that everyone gets to experience and just because your diabetic, that shouldn’t deter you from starting your own family. I’m sure you have plenty of pregnancy questions, so lets take a closer look at what you might experience as a type 1 and becoming pregnant!
Pregnancy Information and Blood Sugar Levels:
We all know that having tight control of our blood sugars is vital in order to reduce risks of complications, but this is even more essential during the second and third trimesters to prevent fetal macrosomia (excessive growth of the baby) as well as a premature or complicated delivery. Throughout pregnancy, expectant moms with type 1 can see major changes in their insulin requirements, typically decreased needs in the first trimester followed by steadily increasing needs in the second and third trimesters. Through frequent reviews of self-monitoring data, our team will work with you to make the necessary adjustments and keep you on track. Our lifestyle specialists will also coach you on nutrition, physical activity and weight issues, and prepare you for “the big day
Pregnancy And Exercise:
Exercise is important to your overall health and that doesn’t change once you are pregnant. Include physical activity in your daily routine, but before you do, get your doctor or health care provider’s OK to exercise, then choose activities you enjoy. Aim for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity. If you haven’t been active for a while, start slowly. Check your blood sugar level before and after any activity, especially if you take insulin. You might need to eat a snack or adjust your insulin pump’s basal rate before exercising to help prevent low blood sugar.
Type 1, Pregnancy And Food Choices:
Good food choices is vital for women who are pregnant with diabetes include those with fiber and whole grains, which not only pack more nutrients but may help control blood sugar levels and cravings for longer.
Some quality foods include leafy greens, low-fat fortified breads like ezekiel, beans, and fresh fruits like citrus (be careful here though). Even when carb choices are healthy, carb binging can cause rapid rises and falls in blood sugar levels, which can spell trouble for a developing baby. Medline Plus suggests pregnant women with diabetes eat a steady level of carbohydrates throughout the day rather than eating a large amount of carbs at one sitting and few at the next. In addition, they recommend limiting concentrated sweets, such as pastries and sugary drinks (a good idea anyway, even if your not pregnant).
Its probably one of the most misunderstood concepts when it comes to working out…the entire concept of overtraining! Most of us will just chalk it up to having a bad day at the gym and we’ll get back at it tomorrow. Could it be something else other than just a “bad gym day”? Lets take a closer look!
Overtraining frequently occurs in athletes and fitness professionals who are training for competition or a specific event and train beyond the body’s ability to recover. Athletes often exercise longer and harder so they can improve. But without adequate rest and recovery, these training regimens can backfire, and actually decrease performance.
Conditioning requires a balance between overload and recovery. Too much overload and/or too little recovery may result in both physical and psychology symptoms of overtraining.
Signs of Overtraining:
Common Warning Signs and Symptoms to watch out for:
- Washed-out feeling, tired, drained, lack of energy
- Mild leg soreness, general aches and pains
- Pain in muscles and joints
- Sudden drop in performance
- Decreased immunity (increased number of colds, and sore throats)
- Decrease in training capacity / intensity
- Moodiness and irritability
- Loss of enthusiasm for the sport
- Decreased appetite
- Increased incidence of injuries.
- A compulsive need to exercise